THE visitor experience in Shrewsbury is weak, a report commissioned by Shropshire Council has claimed.
The draft Visitor Economy Strategy from tourism experts Britton McGrath Associates says tourists find it difficult to find their way to attractions such as The Dingle, The Square and Shrewsbury Castle when they come to the town.
The study found Shrewsbury attracts 2.6 million visitors a year, compared to 41.9 million in Chester and 17.5 million in Durham.
It said: “The challenge here is a lack of identity and focus on unique selling points that Shrewsbury has to offer.
“At the moment, the visitor experience on the ground is weak. There is a lack of welcome or sense of arrival.
“Throughout the town, it is a challenge for a visitor to find the ‘best bits’.
“Across the town, the visitor signage is hard to see or recessive.
“Other cities, arguably with a lot less tangible historic ‘product’ to offer than Shrewsbury, have successfully marketed their assets significantly better.”
The report also criticised the online marketing campaign for Shrewsbury run by Destination Shrewsbury which includes Shrewsbury Town Council, Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Business Chamber and Tourism Association, and Shop in the Loop.
But Destination Shrewsbury chairman Edward Goddard said: “The Visitor Economy Strategy was commissioned to be an active strategy, not one that would sit on a shelf and gather dust.
“To build a stronger tourism offer and provide an enhanced visitor experience we needed constructive criticism – that is what we asked for, and what we have received.
“The whole point of the project was to identify our strengths and weaknesses so we can develop a viable action plan that will significantly enhance Shrewsbury’s tourism industry.”
Louise Cross, service manager for visitor economy at Shropshire Council, said: “This strategy will focus the efforts of both the private sector and the public sector to ensure Shrewsbury remains a competitive destination that delivers an outstanding experience for our visitors.”
John Hall, from Shop in the Loop, added: “We have a beautiful and historic town, with the best shops of any comparable town in Britain.
“We have been a well-kept secret far too long.”
The draft Visitor Economy Strategy document will go before Shropshire Council’s Cabinet on October 19 for formal adoption.
See full story in the Leader